Saturday, June 30, 2012

Onkar Ghate on the Obamacare Decision

Onkar's excellent take on the SCOTUS decision.  Also available here.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Epstein on the SCOTUS Ruling

An interesting take on the disastrous healthcare ruling: A Confused Opinion.

And for those wondering, here's the list of new taxes that come with the disembowelment of what little remained of private medicine.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Road Back to Proper Government

The ultimate goal in politics is to have government return to its proper role of exclusively protecting individual rights. That's what we have to fight for, and that's where the ideological battle lies. But in the name of buying some time to get the message out, I think the idea of farming out government tasks to the private sector, particularly at the state and municipal level, has value. The biggest benefit is that typically municipalities which do this do so without running deficits. (The same fiscal prudence that pushes for competition also wants to run a tight ship.) This means that services are paid for by the same people who use them, there is no shifting the burden on to future citizens and/or future generations. This NY times article provides some reporting on the issue, focusing on the town of Sandy Springs, GA.
To grasp how unusual this is, consider what Sandy Springs does not have. It does not have a fleet of vehicles for road repair, or a yard where the fleet is parked. It does not have long-term debt. It has no pension obligations. It does not have a city hall, for that matter, if your idea of a city hall is a building owned by the city. Sandy Springs rents.
The town does have a conventional police force and fire department, in part because the insurance premiums for a private company providing those services were deemed prohibitively high. But its 911 dispatch center is operated by a private company, iXP, with headquarters in Cranbury, N.J.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Europe's Priorities

An interesting court ruling coming from the European Court of Justice. I would expect it to help push Europe's unemployment rate even higher.
For most Europeans, almost nothing is more prized than their four to six weeks of guaranteed annual vacation leave. But it was not clear just how sacrosanct that time off was until Thursday, when Europe’s highest court ruled that workers who happened to get sick on vacation were legally entitled to take another vacation.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Defending the Oil Industry

Alex Epstein makes an important point.  I think the idea of "aspirational advocacy" is an aspect of taking the moral high ground in every debate.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Socialism's Corrosivity

This isn't the most direct story revealing the flaws of socialism, but I found it poignant.  Anecdotal reports suggest a reversal in Greece's previous trend towards urbanization.  As this Reuters story has it:
At age 32, Lakka, an office clerk who also juggled odd jobs, joined a growing number of Greeks returning to the countryside in the hope of living off the land. It's a reversal of the journey their parents and grandparents made in the 1960s and '70s.

Data is scarce on how many people have made the trek, but as people angered by austerity head to the polls on June 17, anecdotal evidence and interviews with officials suggest the trend is gaining momentum. In a survey of nearly 1,300 Greeks by Kapa Research in March, over 68 percent said they had considered moving to the countryside, with most citing cheaper and higher quality life. Most expected to move permanently.

"A year ago, I couldn't imagine myself holding a garden hoe, or doing any farming," said Lakka, as she watered the herbs she grows in the village of Konitsa, which nestles among snow-capped peaks near the Albanian border.

"I've always wanted to leave the village. I never imagined I would actually spend my whole life here."

Her experience has been far from idyllic. The arrival of young, city-dwelling Greeks is being watched with a mix of pity and hope by those who never left.
Not only has socialism destroyed the economic engine necessary for civilization, it also corrodes people's sense of independence and self-responsibility. It's telling that the first question would-be farmers ask is about state subsidies:
"They usually ask whether there are state subsidies for agriculture and for growing pomegranates, snails and aromatic herbs," he said, recounting how a 40-year-old acquaintance had returned to tend sheep in the hills. Greece's farmers mostly run small operations and rely on EU subsidies to survive. They complain that over the past five years subsidies have halved.
These types of stories should give pause to those who think progress and civilized life are automatic. The march of history is determined by ideas and ideologies; with the wrong ones the West could relive the fate it suffered from 300AD to the Renaissance.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Admitting to not Knowing

I've been in awe of Jason Pierre Paul's abilities since the first Giants game that I saw him in.  And then learning of his famous back flips (at 6'7") and football statistics despite having come to the game relatively late in life reinforced my view.  But this story highlighting his mental approach is worth blogging.

Pierre-Paul is not afraid to ask questions, even questions others might be embarrassed to ask. He's also not afraid to make mistakes. Full-on, high-speed mistakes. While the instinct of many is to avoid reaching out for help, Pierre-Paul knows what he doesn't know and is trying to learn quickly.
"I think I said something to him about his hand placement and there he was by the end of practice, fixing it," defensive lineman Justin Tuck said. "I think we said something to him about his stance a month ago and he fixed it.
"He's not just trying to get by on his athletic ability. He's trying to go way beyond that."
"My parents always told me to ask [questions]," Pierre-Paul said. "They would never make any of us feel bad for asking a question. That's just how I was raised."
That attitude has shown up time and again in the ego-heavy confines of the team meeting rooms or on the practice field.
"You get a lot of guys, especially young guys, who are afraid to ask," Giants linebacker/defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said. "They sit in the back and you look at them and say, 'Do you understand?' They look up and say, 'Yeah, I got it' and you know they don't, but they're too embarrassed to ask.
"With Jason, he doesn't care. He's smart enough to know what he doesn't know and he'll keep asking and asking and asking. If he has to ask something five times, he will until he gets the answer that he understands. He's not just a great athlete trying to get by on talent. He wants to learn."

Indeed being willing to ask questions even if it means looking stupid is a skill I'm still working on. But it's well worth it, for not only does it accelerate my learning, but the very attitude makes a perceptible improvement in my quality of life as it makes me both more relaxed and more forthright.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Not Paying Our Way

Though I have many fundamental disagreements with him (e.g. the role of demographics vs. ideas, the nature of religion and of conservatism, etc.), I find Mark Steyn to be the most interesting public commentator that I've run across.  He possesses a rare combination of wit, multiple interests (from music, to theatre, to geopolitics, to cultural trends) and the unparalleled courage to say what he thinks.  He's also among the most pithy of today's writers.  Here's an example of the latter (from
That's to say, the unsustainable "bubble" is not student debt or subprime mortgages or anything else. The bubble is us, and the assumptions of entitlement. Too many citizens of advanced western democracies live a life they have not earned, and are not willing to earn.